Publication Detail

Motorization in China: Case Study of Shanghai


Journal Article

China Center for Energy and Transportation, Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Electric Vehicle Research Center

Available online at doi: 10.3141/2193-09.

Suggested Citation:
Ni, Meng-Cheng, Kenneth S. Kurani, Daniel Sperling (2010) Motorization in China: Case Study of Shanghai. Transportation Research Record 2193, 68 - 75

Motorization, the substitution of automobiles and trucks for nonmotorized travel modes, has been examined at national and regional levels. Previous studies indicate that, at the national level, income (gross domestic product per capita) typically explains more than 90% of the variation in vehicle ownership. In terms of travel mode transition, some studies have explained part of this phenomenon, but a comprehensive review has rarely been conducted. In this paper, motorization is examined as an individual and as a household phenomenon. At the personal level, motorization occurs through a series of transitions, stereotypically from nonmotorized to motorized, from shared to privately owned, and from low to high cost. Results of a survey of residents of Shanghai, China, in mid-2006 illustrate these personal transitions, or motorization pathways. On the basis of the survey, motorization pathways in Shanghai were found to be diverse (331 distinct pathways across 992 respondents) and complicated (the pathways of more than 50% of respondents involved more than three stages). Only about half of the respondents came to their current motorization stage through a hypothesized motorization direction. This paper indicates that no common path exists toward private automobile ownership in Shanghai. At least at present, Shanghai residents appear to make a transition away from motorized, expensive, private modes of mobility nearly as often as they transition toward them. This implies not only that widespread use of private cars is not inevitable, but that there are many stages along the motorization pathway where government policies could affect mobility choice and guide Shanghai to a more sustainable future.